Environment and Society

General overview and criticism of book:

  • Very textbooky
    • This allows for more visuals than a normal book may allow
  • Clear and easy to follow
    • Highlighted terms that make understanding easier
    • I did not like how terms were recycled and redefined chapters later – very abnormal for a textbook.
    • Almost seems as if it is intended for a high school level environmental science course
  • I appreciated having a book like this for this course because I feel that sometimes we can get caught up in the biases of an author
    • To-the-point facts
  • Very interesting case studies to tie information to real world application
    • For example, one child rule in chapter 2
  • Aside from the more complex economic topics, I have been familiarized with almost all of the topics and themes of this book through OWU courses such as Conservation Biology, Population and Community Ecology, Seminars, and Environmental Alteration.
  • The repetition of terms is partially because the themes are so interconnected.
    • For example, in the chapter about nuclear power there is a reiteration of hazards and risks.
    • This shows that the topics are not isolated issues
    • This is almost like a real-life approach to the issues where different topics and approaches must be considered and how they relate to one another

Chapter 2: Population and Scarcity

  • Population is limited by diseases and availability of resources
  • How societal conditions relate to population (i.e. literact and birth rates)
  • Demographic shifts
  • Human population growth is directly linked to sustainability
  • Environmental impacts on a population will vary by their affluence and accessibility of technology

Chapter 3: Markets and Commodities

  • Look at the environment as a commodity with a value
    • Way to regulate resources
  • Market based mechanisms as management techniques
    • Green taxes, etc.
  • Difficult to assign monetary values to environmental goods and services

Chapter 4: Institutions and Commons

  • Individuals usually choose personal, instantaneous gain over gains that are distant but for the collective good
  • Tragedy of the Commons: selfishness overcomes foresight
  • Common properties can be preserved with the right management approaches and collaboration of institutions and individuals
  • Cooperation may be hindered by social, political, and economic inequalities

Chapter 5: Environmental Ethics

  • First, I was worried that this chapter would become highly opinionated, but it remained fairly neutral. I think it is nearly impossible for an author or reader to not have an emotional response to a section about ethics.
  • Anthropocentric vs ecocentric
  • Conservation vs preservation
  • Acknowledge that nature has utilitarian value for mankind
    • Do not have to be separated

Chapter 6: Risks and Hazards

  • Hazards vs risks
    • Think of environmental problems as hazards
  • New way of decision making
  • Separation of risk and emotion
  • Evaluating risks may be a societal or social construct
    • Different groups have different exposures to risks as well as have different priorities based on what risks they are facing

Chapter 7: Political Economy

  • I enjoyed the cartoon… these types of figures and notes in the book gives the text more “personality” than a traditional textbook.
  • Intersections of politics and economics in an environmental context
  • Tension for economic gains to exploit natural resources
  • Environmental justice and ecofeminism

Chapter 8: Social Construction of Nature

  • Does normal = natural? No
  • Back to beginning of this course – what is nature?
    • Cronon, Meadowlands, Thoreau, Abbey, etc.
  • Although not necessarily correct, this can have large impacts on politics
    • May lead to inappropriate or uninformed decision making
  • Does this cause for a dismissal of science?
  • Social constructs heavily influence our way of thinking

Chapter 9: Carbon Dioxide

  • This point is a shift in the book from more over-arching social themes of environmental science to issue-based topics.
  • Relationship of carbon emissions and industrialization
  • Creation of carbon-dependent society
  • Idea of greenwashing
  • Combination of economic and institutional approaches for management
  • Carbon cycles and climate change

Chapter 10: Trees

  • Changes in tree cover globally
  • Society has emotional attachment to trees
  • Forest destruction vs recovery
  • Forests are a highly valued commodity

Chapter 11: Wolves

  • History is entirely shaped by human interactions
    • Social constructs
  • Life-history of the wolf
    • Keystone species making it important for preservation of biodiversity

Chapter 12: Uranium

  • Nuclear power
    • Worth the danger?
  • Weapons vs energy
  • Reduce electricity and therefore carbon footprint
  • History of disaster
    • Long-lasting damage
  • Risk of pollution and other environmental impacts
  • No solution for waste disposal
  • Mining is harmful

Chapter 13: Tuna

  • I enjoyed the reference to Blood Diamond
  • Tuna have been unsustainably harvested for years
  • New technologies have made it more detrimental in practice because bycatch and overall environmental impacts
  • Had to appeal to the charismatic dolphin to gain political support by altering the social construct of tuna
  • Why do we not see tuna the same way we see other animal rights
    • Think about factory farms

Chapter 14: Lawns

  • Part of our society and culture
  • Chemicals
    • Hazardous to health and ecosystems
    • We still use them knowing these risks because of the higher concern for cultural acceptance…
      • I have to have a green yard so my neighbors aren’t angry….
    • Grew into multi-billion dollar industry

Chapter 15: Bottled Water

  • Becoming a primary source of drinking water worldwide
  • Social construct of superiority
    • Health and safety
  • Production, packaging, and dispersal are environmentally unfriendly
  • Proven to not be advantageous over tap water
  • Commoditization of nature
    • Privatization

Chapter 16: French Fries

  • Random chapter but interesting
  • Viewed as having broader political implications than just an individual choice
  • Problems with biodiversity
  • Risks to both human and ecosystem health

Chapter 17: E-Waste

  • Environmental justice issue
    • Dumping in poor countries
  • Increasing with increased consumption of electronics
  • Risks to public health as well as broader environment
  • Inconsistent regulations make management difficult

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